The director-general of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr. Rufus Ebegba, has restated Federal Government’s commitment to ensuring adequate biosafety regulation in the country.
Speaking at a one-day sensitization workshop on bio-safety (genetically modified organism’s safety and regulation) in Nigeria, in Lafia, Nasarawa State, he maintained that only safe genetically modified products will be allowed in the Nigerian market, stressing that the agency is not resting on its oars in ensuring that only safe and approved genetically modified seeds and grains for food and feed processing are allowed into the Nigerian market.
“Since its coming into existence, the NBMA has put in place regulations, guidelines and policies to ensure that the products of modern biotechnology (genetically modified organisms) can be deployed safely in Nigeria.
“The NBMA was not created to stop genetically modified organisms (GMOs) but to ensure that Nigerians and the environment are safe from any adverse impact they may have on human health and the environment.
“This workshop is aimed at sensitising Nigerians on the state of bio-safety in Nigeria, with regards to genetically modified organisms and their safety, while updating the general public on the activities of the Federal Government in the area of bio-safety management in the country,” he said.
Ebegba noted that, globally, safe science and technology have been known to be drivers of economic change.
“Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind. This is why the Federal Government, through the NBMA, makes sure it approves only safe applications of modern biotechnology for the economic development of the country, particularly in the agricultural sector.
“The NBMA is very thorough in its dealings and, before any approval is granted, the National Biosafety Committee and the National Biosafety Technical Committee meet to analyze, deliberate on the product and decisions are taken after careful and thorough analysis of the application. This rigorous process could take days,” he said.
In her remarks, the NBMA head of planning research and statistics, Mrs. Bello Scholastica, said the workshop was aimed at clarifying the role of NBMA, broaden participants’ knowledge in understanding the science behind modern biotechnology/biosafety policies and regulatory processes, bring participants up to speed with contemporary issues relating to bio-technology and bio-safety around the world.
She added it is to bring participants up to speed with the laws and regulations guiding the approval of GM crops and derived products in Nigeria [via the] Biosafety Management Act, 2015 (as amended) for better understanding and comprehension, foster confidence in the agency’s role in ensuring the safety of modern biotechnology applications in accordance with international and national laws and guidelines, strengthen and broaden collaborations in ensuring bio-safety in Nigeria and enable stakeholders make informed choices on whether or not to adopt GMOs.
In his remarks, the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) regional representative in West Africa, Dr. Issoufou Kollo, pointed out that there has been so much talk in Nigeria about biotechnology and bio-safety and assured that the AATF has been in the middle of the debate.
He maintained the foundation is dedicated to having collaborations and establishing partnerships with various government research institutions – the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), NBMA and other institutes – that have a stake in agriculture and the environment.
Earlier, the representative of Nasarawa State Ministry of Environment and director, department of climate change, Mrs. Chammang Atinuke, expressed gratitude at the opportunity to be at the workshop adding that the Ministry of Environment would readily partner with the NBMA.
She said that the ministry is also doing its best to complement the efforts of the NBMA in the conservation of biodiversity.
A statement by the NBMA head of media and communications, Gloria Ogbaki, said various presentations were made, some of them being “GM food safety and global best practices; an overview of modern biotechnology, its products and biosafety concerns”; “Overview of the PBR cowpea research in Nigeria”;
“Biosafety: imperative for socioeconomic development” and “The role of the media in biosafety communications”.